Sep 25

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 25, 2020

Posted on September 25, 2020 at 11:27 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Virtual Forum set to discuss the Limited Commercial District
By Gregory T. Federspiel

What is your vision for the Limited Commercial District?  This is the key question on tap for a public forum scheduled for Thursday, September 24 starting at 6:00PM.  Residents are encouraged to register to participate by going to the Town’s website where a flyer with a link to register to receive the Zoom log-in information can be found. 

The forum will begin with an overview of the LCD, the zoning district that encompasses lands to the north of Route 128.  Currently, as the name implies, zoning in this district allows a fairly limited range of commercial uses.  During the development of the Town’s new Master Plan, residents expressed a desire to revisit this area of town with an eye toward allowing a broader range of uses, including housing, as a way to increase our tax base and diversify our housing supply.   

The creation of a 40R overlay district is part of the exploration of what might be best for the LCD.    A 40R Smart Growth District is a state program that encourages municipalities to implement zoning that fosters compact, mixed use, mixed income development in areas of existing or planned infrastructure.  40R districts must consist of at least 51% housing, 20% of which must be affordable.  As an incentive, the state makes payments directly to towns that adopt a 40R district as well as payments after new housing is built in the area. 

As part of any new zoning, development and design standards aimed at ensuring that new construction is consistent with the Town’s vision for the area can be incorporated.  These standards can include aesthetic concerns, density, and, importantly for the area in question, environmental standards that ensure the protection of our natural resources. 

The area also is likely to see a “40B” project proposed (another section of state law that allows a developer to build a project that normally would not be allowed by zoning in towns which do not have a minimum of 10% of housing stock being affordable per state guidelines – Manchester is below 5%.)   We anticipate receiving a proposal for a large apartment complex from a developer for lands on upper School Street across from Atwater Avenue.  This is a separate process, but we hope to be able to integrate the two projects, assuming the timing works out to do so. 

For the study of the LCD and the possible creation of a 40R district, a project working group, made up of representatives from Town Boards and Committees, will guide communications and assist with community outreach. Staff from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) are providing technical assistance through a grant we have received to help advance this work. The Planning Board will play a central role in developing any proposed zoning amendments that might emerge from this work.

The schedule anticipates articulating the vision and goals for the district over the next few weeks, developing initial concepts and recommendations by the end of November, drafting zoning language and design guidelines by the end of January, and, if the work is received favorably, seeking voter approval of the proposed zoning amendments at the April Annual Town Meeting.

Throughout the coming months there will be on-going opportunities for residents to weigh in, providing your ideas and feedback on what should be the final outcome.  The forum on Thursday, 9/24, is an important part of crafting the vision for the LCD and will include a survey that each participant will be asked to complete.  Ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide whether to approve any new zoning for this area of town as we pursue ways to implement the goals articulated in our Master Plan.      



Sep 18

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 18, 2020

Posted on September 18, 2020 at 8:46 AM by Tiffany Marletta

ANNOUNCING NEW GRANT SUPPORT FOR LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES

By Gregory T. Federspiel

I am pleased to announce a new grant program to support local micro-businesses impacted by the pandemic.  Manchester joined 22 other communities in the greater Boston metropolitan region in securing federally funded Community Development Block Grant dollars through the CARES Act of 2020.  A total of $4,950,000 is being made available to the 23 communities.  Manchester’s allocation is $63,000.

The funding is designed to address COVID induced emergency cash needs of very small local businesses.  Individual businesses are eligible for up to $10,000 in grant funding.  These “micro-business” awards are targeted toward a commercial, for-profit enterprise that has five or fewer employees, including the owner(s). 

The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) is administering the program for the 23 communities.  Applications are available through the MGCC portal, available here and are due by September 25th. Businesses interested in applying should visit the website for details on the application process and fill out the on-line application. 

In addition to targeting micro-enterprises, the new grant program gives priority to those business owners who qualify as a low- or moderate-income (LMI) person. An individual is considered to be LMI based on their annualized family income which must be no more than 80% of the median income for a given family size (the application web page has a link to this data for our area.) For a family of four, 80% of the annual median family income is just over $89,000.

Grant funding may be used for rent, mortgage assistance, utilities or payroll. Funds may also be used to purchase PPE.  Home-based businesses as well as store-front enterprises are eligible.

Businesses that have a physical establishment in the following 23 participating communities can apply: Ashland, Beverly, Burlington, Canton, Concord, Dedham, Essex, Lexington, Manchester by the Sea, Marlborough, Melrose, Milton, Natick, North Reading, Norwood, Randolph, Reading, Sharon, Southborough, Stoneham, Watertown, Winchester or Woburn.

If you have questions or need assistance in applying for a grant, please let me know as I will be happy to help.

In other news, the Selectmen are preparing to update many local speed limits.  Instead of one large safety zone with a 20 MPH limit encompassing most of the greater village area, a series of more targeted safety zones will be proposed with most other areas having a 25 MPH limit; 35 MPH limits are proposed for the most undeveloped outskirts of town.  A public hearing on these changes will be held at the Selectmen’s meeting scheduled for October 5.   

Lastly, the front doors of Town Hall are once again open.  The majority of the work restoring the Town Common is complete and the redesign looks great.  New railings still need to be added and the work on the Soldier’s Honor Roll will be getting underway shortly which will round out the work later this fall.    




Aug 28

From the Town Administrator's Desk - August 28, 2020

Posted on August 28, 2020 at 1:58 PM by Tiffany Marletta

Civic Engagement – Voting to Volunteering                                                                                                 

By Gregory T. Federspiel

Election season is upon us.  The major political parties have held their national conventions, the airwaves (and social media) are filling up with campaign ads and lawn signs are sprouting.  One element of being an engaged citizen is exercising your right to vote.

Primary voting is underway.  Voters have three options – voting by mail, voting in person early, or voting in person on the day of the primary election, next Tuesday, September 1.  The deadline for asking for a mail-in ballot was Wednesday, August 26.  At this time, voters who want to vote by mail are encouraged to drop off their sealed ballot into the drop box behind Town Hall rather than risk a late delivery by the postal service.  Mail in ballots must be received by the Town Clerk by 8:00PM on September 1.  A large number – over 30% of registered Manchester voters -- have requested mail-in ballots.

Early voting, which takes place at Town Hall, concludes on Thursday, August 27 at 6:30PM.  Any registered voter can vote early in person. 

Primary Election Day is Tuesday, September 1.  The polls will be open for all registered voters, including those who requested a mail-in ballot but did not return the ballot.  (All mail-in ballots must be in a sealed envelop with the voter’s signature on the outside that is verified.)  In-person voting on Tuesday takes place at the regional high school on Lincoln Street in the cafeteria from 7AM until 8PM.  Appropriate precautions against COVID 19 will be followed.

A similar three-pronged approach for voting will be available for the general election scheduled for November 3.  Those who requested a mail-in ballot for both the primary and the general election will automatically receive a mail-in ballot in October.  If you want to request a mail-in ballot but no longer have the postcard from the Secretary of State’s Office, you can download a request form from the Secretary of State’s website or mail in a signed request to the Town Clerk’s Office. 

Early voting for the November general election will be available a week prior to the election at Town Hall and on Election Day, November 3, the polls will be open at the high school from 7AM-8PM. 

Need assistance with voting?  Our Interim Town Clerk, Sharon George, is very a very knowledgeable and experienced Town Clerk who can easily help. 

Another important way to exercise your civic engagement is to volunteer for one of the many Town boards or committees.  Currently we have 14 vacancies that need a volunteer.  The list includes openings on the ADA Committee, Animal Control Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Council on Aging, the Conservation Committee, Downtown Improvement Committee, MBTA Advisory Board, Seaside One, and the Welcoming Committee. 

The Town’s Annual Report is a good place to learn more about what each board or committee does.  In all the Town has over 30 boards and committees and hundreds of volunteers. The work of these volunteers plays a critical role in the functioning of the Town.  Some boards and committees have regulatory functions, approving permits for various activities in town while others are advisory, diving deeper into a particular topic and providing recommendations for action by the Board of Selectmen or directly by the voters at Town Meeting. 

Most boards and committees meet one or two times a month. All meetings are posted on the Town’s web site and the meetings are open to the public.  Meeting minutes are also available on the Town’s web site for review. 

Looking to contribute to the well-being of the Town?  Please submit an application to be considered for an appointment.  Applicants undergo a brief interview process with the Board of Selectmen who then decide on appointments.  Applications (form available on-line or a letter of interest is also acceptable) should be sent to the Selectmen’s Office. And thanks -- volunteers remain at the heart of town governance.